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Tag:Pittsburgh Penguins
Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:13 pm
Edited on: November 17, 2011 10:47 am
 

Duchene vs. Malkin: Which goal is better?

By: Adam Gretz

PITTSBURGH -- After racing out to a two-goal lead in the first period the Colorado Avalanche had a bit of a meltdown on Tuesday, allowing five consecutive goals in Pittsburgh to fall by a 6-3 margin, losing for the ninth time in their past 12 games. The game had a great flow at times as the two teams exchanged chances, and it also featured two of the nicest goals we've seen across the NHL this year.

First, Colorado's third-year standout, Matt Duchene, made a ridiculous move between the circles to drag the puck between his legs and dangle around Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to deposit the puck into an empty net for his seventh goal of the season. Duchene was one of the best players on the ice for much of the game, especially through the first two periods, recording seven shots on goal -- including the one he scored on -- in just over 17 minutes of ice-time.

Not to be outdone, Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin scored what proved to be the game-winner early in the third period when he forced a turnover behind the net, and then proceeded to turn Gabriel Landeskog and Semyon Varlamov inside-out on his way to his fifth goal of the season.

Two outstanding plays, but which one tops your highlight reel for the night?


I know it came in the losing effort, and the goal itself is probably no consolation on a night where his team surrendered five unanswered goals (and it wasn't), but I'm tempted to go with Duchene's as the better play. But it's close. To be able to pull that move off at that speed is incredible.

Said Duchene after the game, "I kinda forgot about it, but it was a great play by Pauly (Stastny). He made a great pass to me and I was just able to free myself up for an open net. I think we're a little but disappointed as a line because we felt like we played a good enough game to score two or three more and just weren't able to do it. Had some bad bounces, a post, some chances that just didn't go in. We could have put the game away early with any luck."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:47 pm
Edited on: November 15, 2011 3:55 pm
 

Protection of goalies hot topic at GM meetings

By Brian Stubits

What better time than after the Hall of Fame ceremony for the GMs to gather and discuss the issues of the day? After all, most of them are already in town for the festivities anyway.

The item on the morning agenda of the meetings? It truly was the top issue of the day: goaltender safety. Spurred by the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller, the rules regarding goaltenders outside the crease have been a hot topic. While the rulebook clearly states a goalie is not fair game anywhere on the ice, it has been a muddy conversation.

From the sounds of Blues GM Doug Armstrong, it was more a matter of clarification than anything else for the GMs.

“Just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page, that when they’re out on the open ice, that they’re going to be protected,” Armstrong said. “We do want continued play in front of the net, but we want to make sure that when they’re outside the [blue] ice, that they’re protected.”

The best way that people are describing the protection of goaltenders is to draw the parallel to football and the quarterback. In football, the QB has become like an endangered species, seemingly any affront to his safety has been squashed. Drives a QB into the ground after a pass? Personal foul. Same goes for when a scrambling QB slides to the ground.

“In my opinion, I think we have to [protect goalies like QBs],” Penguins GM Ray Shero said. “I’m not talking about plays around the crease, because there will be incidental contact ... We’re talking about a regular season game, we’re talking about the incident with Lucic and Ryan Miller. You get into a playoff series and if these guys are going to be coming out to play pucks, and you can run them over and get a two-minute penalty, then I think you’re going to open up a pretty dangerous set of circumstances.

“Several of the general managers just brought up the fact there’s only 60 goaltenders in the league, and we have to be pretty careful in terms of, if they’re going to play puck outside the crease, what should be fair,” Shero said. “We’ll continue to look at it, and probably talk about it much more at the March meeting, as well.”

Is it a bit reactionary? Of course. The Lucic/Miller incident is fresh and was pretty uncommon. But the reactions after the hit proved the need for some clarification on the matter, even if it was as simple as getting rule 69.4 spread around for everybody to see.

This is where Brendan Shanahan's decision not to suspend Lucic, for the hit comes into play a bit. Many, myself included, believed that if nothing else a token suspension was called for against Lucic, something to make it clear that goalies can't be run over. But Shanahan believed Lucic did not intend to hit Miller and that it was more of an unfortunate collision. He reiterated the point to the GMs that goalies will be protected and offenders could still be suspended. From Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com:

"Shanahan told GMs that players should NOT read into Lucic ruling that goalies are fair game. Quite the opposite, Shanahan warned GMs."

The GMs don't want to see more incidents like it and want to nip it in the bud now before frontier justice like that alluded by Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knocks another goaltender out for a period of time. I believe for most GMs it's a matter of self-preservation if anything else (in this case self being their team's interests).

“That’s going to be the message to our team -- the goalies are not fair game,” Shero said. “If the guy’s going to play it outside the crease, you have to be pretty careful.”

Perhaps I'm too cynical, but I believe the root of that statement from Shero comes out of the fear of losing Marc-Andre Fleury for some time.

As for rest of the meetings, also on the schedule was the 1-3-1 trap that caused such a stir last week after the bizarre scene between the Flyers and Lightning which led to a stalemate. To that, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman gave a reasonable response, saying they don't want to overreact to something that has only happened once. Perhaps Flyers GM Paul Holmgren put it best: "I'd like to see us attack the situation a little bit differently than we did last game."

The other big item on the docket was realignment, something Flyers chairman Ed Snider brought up again in Toronto. But right now that's all just chatter among the GMs. The decision on realignment will made at the Board of Governors meeting in December.

All of these conversations and more will get hashed out again in March the next time the GMs gather.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 15, 2011 11:41 am
 

Flyers chairman Snider expects total realignment

By Brian Stubits

It's been a while since our last realignment update. When last we left you, the Flyers and Penguins were sharing their displeasure with any proposal that had them in separate divisions/conferences.

All along, the reports have said the NHL was looking to do as little as possible in regards to moving teams. In a perfect world for the powers that be, the Jets would be moved into the Central, perhaps the Blue Jackets go in the Southeast and you call it a day.

But life isn't that simple. There is the pressure of the Red Wings to move East. There is also the looming uncertainty of the Coyotes in Phoenix and whether they might move to, say, Quebec City.

Throw all of the above angles into a crockpot with the other spices affecting the situation added in and you have "total realignment" cooking, according to Flyers chairman Ed Snider.

“There has to be,” Snider told Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly about total realignment. “But our traditional rivalries will always be with us no matter how it is realigned. I’m pretty confident of that.”

Perhaps the reason for his confidence in that is his belief that the Pennsylvania teams will remain together, something which the proposal that was reportedly gaining steam did not feature.

“We’ll be together without question, if under a four conference set-up,” Snider predicted of the Flyers and Penguins. “We will have all our traditional rivals and some others in a four-conference setup.”

The question begs: what is total realignment? Could that be a situation where conferences aren't divided by east and west but instead split seemingly at random like the NFL and MLB? Does it mean a return to the four-conference format, as Snider alludes to? Does it mean Florida is joining the Northwest Division?

I think about the only thing we can safely assume is that "total realignment" would include the abolition of the six-division format currently in use. I wouldn't rule anything else out at this point (OK, I guess I'd rule out that Florida-to-Northwest, too).

If I had to put money down I'd expect to see the four-conference format that we used to enjoy, and not just because Snider hinted at it. I think it could give the league the most flexibility in the case of a Phoenix move to the East.

The idea has been discussed already of having unbalanced conferences a la Major League Baseball (although it looks like that won't remain as the Houston Astros are reportedly moving to the American League). Assuming that enough franchises would be happy with that idea, the realignment starts with 15 teams per conference and then they could easily flip to the unbalanced, 16/14 look with simply switching the Coyotes franchise to the East after their hypothetical move. If they stay, then you keep balanced conferences.

When this is all said and done, I can't imagine everybody will be happy. But such is life, the teams with the most clout -- Philadelphia and Pittsburgh each fall into this category -- are much more likely to get their way.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:51 pm
Edited on: November 11, 2011 5:36 pm
 

Weekend Preview: Ducks searching for wakeup call

By Brian Stubits

Weekend schedule: Friday | Saturday | Sunday

You know it's bad when we're still early in November and the Anaheim Ducks call a closed-doors meeting. It stinks almost as much as the Avalanche calling Thursday's tilt against the Islanders a "must-win game." They did, barely (4-3 in OT).

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And right now, things are getting close to desperate in Orange County. The Ducks are the coldest team in hockey having lost six in a row. In a world without the overtime loser point, Anaheim is 5-10. That is not good.

"You have to eliminate any confusion, any doubt before you can take the next step forward," Carlyle said about the meeting.

"A lot of times coaches are talking and nobody says a word and you go to the ice and say, 'Well, I don't think that's work[ing]," Teemu Selanne offered. "It's important that the players can give their input also about the situation. It was really good. It was really honest conversations. I think it was a huge step forward."

They better get things figured out quickly. With Dallas playing as well as it is and San Jose in the division, the Ducks could dig themselves a hole too tough to get out of. They have the fewest goals scored and the most goals surrendered in the Pacific Division. In 15 games they have 29 goals, that's less than two goals per game.

How can a team with Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Selanne be struggling to score this much? Well presumably that's what the closed-door meeting was for.

I can't help but think it's the lack of power of the mustache. Since the month of Movember came around and the Ducks all began growing out their best 'staches, the team hasn't won a game. This is making me rethink my entire stance on the world. Here I was holding the mustache in such high esteem.

Or maybe it could be more rationally explained by figuring out where Lubomir Visnovsky has gone? The defenseman who had 18 goals and 50 assists last season has just four points (1-3=4) in 15 games and is a minus-9. Him finding his game would go a long way in helping the Ducks remove the ugly from their game.

So who do they get to try their presumably new tactics against first? How about the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night? Just the team for a struggling squad to face (the still-not-invented sarcasm font was on there).

But that's not all for the weekend. On Sunday the Ducks welcome the last team they beat, the Minnesota Wild. Of course since that win, these two teams have flipped their fortunes. The Ducks have become the coldest team this side of Columbus while Minnesota has been red hot.

SoCal struggles, Part II: This was supposed to be the season the Los Angeles Kings stepped forward, made a run for the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship. It obviously still could be, the season is only a short way in. But right now they could use a swift kick in the rear to get in gear.

Los Angeles has followed a 5-1-1 start with a 2-5-2 stretch, including a five-game losing streak that has people wondering if the boot isn't being polished up before delivering the kick. After all, the Kings have not scored more than three goals in 13 of their 16 games. For a team that acquired an offensive talent like Mike Richards to go with a solid group already, that's not going to cut it.

"The offense, certainly myself at the top of the list, should be scoring more, getting to the net," Justin Williams said following Thursday's loss.

So do you put the blame for the struggling stretch on coach Terry Murray? After all, head coaches are always the first scapegoat. I find it hard to blame Murray. He's trying all that he can, mixing and matching the lines to try and create a spark. But as they always say, you can't really fire the players. I mean you can, but it's a lot more difficult.

One of the issues right now is the play of Jonathan Quick. Remember that shutout streak back in October? That's a thing of the past. In his last six starts, Quick has zero wins. He is giving up nearly three goals per game in that stretch.

About the only thing going well right now for L.A. is the play of Drew Doughty. His game has been on point recently with five points in the last three games.

Like their SoCal neighbors in the O.C., the chance to get on the right track will come against the Wild, Saturday night at Staples Center. Oh, Minnesota enters the game having won five of the last six.

What the ....? You know who's not struggling? The first-place Florida Panthers. Yes, you read that right, first-place Panthers.

Dale Tallon threw together a team that everybody anticipated would struggle to jell, but it came together like jell-o. The Panthers have tallied a point in six consecutive games, including back-to-back wins on the road in Toronto and Winnipeg.

If they want to make it seven straight, they will have to get through the Flyers, who are in Sunrise on Sunday.

This is where I'd like to spread a little love on Kris Versteeg, the forward who is on his fourth team in a two-year span -- the one before the Panthers being the Flyers. He has apparently found the right fit and is scoring at a pace of better than a point per game, leading the Cats with 17 points in 15 games. Brian Campbell hasn't been too shabby either with 15 points in 15 games.

The surprises are all around on one of the NHL's biggest surprises this season. Jason Garrison is a sniper from the blue line? Who knew? But he's tied with Nicklas Lidstrom in the NHL lead for goals among defensemen with six. Jose Theodore can still be effective as a No. 1 goalie? Just talk to the folks in the Washington press box to see how hard that is to believe.

There's no telling how long this will last. First place in a division with the Capitals is asking a lot. But with a start like this, they can at least dream of ending that 10-year playoff drought in Florida.

Texas two-step: Want to know if the Dallas Stars are really as good as their 11-3-0 record indicates? Other than the fact that you are what your record says you are, as Bill Parcells would say, the Stars are in the midst of about as tough a three-game road stretch you can conjure up in the NHL.

They already went through the Capitals, handing them their first loss in D.C. this season. Now they have back-to-back games starting Friday in Pittsburgh. The game was viewed as a potential return date for Sidney Crosby, but that's not happening now. However it is still the top two teams in each conference and James Neal vs. the team that traded him.

If that's not enough, Dallas will take the trip to Detroit where the Red Wings await on Saturday.

I'm not sure how many more tests the Stars have to pass before this start and this team is believed to be for real by the masses. It might be already. I know I'm a believer. But just to be safe, a few more points in this weekend double-dip couldn't hurt.

The Bruins got their groove back: It only took a month, but now the Boston Bruins are showing the form the hockey world expected. After all, ask Boston fans and they will tell you last season was just a whole heaping of bonus -- this was the season when they were expected to be legitimate Cup contenders.

The team that in the early going couldn't score now can't stop scoring. Especially in bunches. Five times in the month of November the Bruins scored two goals within 49 seconds of one another. Five times!

Without a doubt, the most impressive player has been Tyler Seguin. The sophomore is showing why there was such a debate between himself and Taylor Hall before the 2010 draft. He is so quick and always seem to get his stick on the puck near the net.

The above items considered, it should come then as no surprise that the Bruins have won four games in a row and are streaking into their game against Northeast Division foe Buffalo.

The question there is which Sabres goalie will be entrusted with slowing down this now potent Bruins attack? That’s the question every day now in Buffalo where at the moment -- and I stress at the moment -- the goaltending job is a 50/50 proposition between Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth. If Miller gets the call, it could be a tough situation to find a slump-busting performance.

Defense rules

The Tampa Bay defense, specifically the 1-3-1 trap that coach Guy Boucher loves to use, is the topic of the week in the NHL. The crux of the issue: people want to see more scoring, less stalling.

If that describes you, maybe you should find something else to do on Saturday night when the Lightning and St. Louis Blues meet. Offense might not be too plentiful.

With Ken Hitchcock now on the St. Louis bench and his preference to play a defensive-minded game, it could be a pretty slow and plodding game. Nothing as bad as the scene on Wednesday night, but still not offense friendly. In the two games under Hitchcock, the Blues have given up two goals.

Of course after all this you can now expect for the teams to hit the over.

Photo: US Presswire

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 10, 2011 1:00 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 3:24 pm
 

Sidney Crosby ruled out for weekend's games

By Brian Stubits

The world was waiting for Sidney Crosby's return to come this weekend. The media flocked to Pittsburgh for the long-awaited day to come. Eye On Hockey blogger Adam Gretz was on stand-by (he'll still be at the game on Friday).

Alas, arguably the game's biggest star will not lace them up against the Stars on Friday, or the Hurricanes (in Carolina) on Saturday.

Yes, the home game on Friday Nov. 11 was the one everybody was predicting for his return. Signs were pointing to it. GM Ray Shero said in an interview before the Penguins went on a long road trip that he wanted Crosby to return on home ice. He had been practicing and reportedly doing well with the contact he was receiving. Pens beatwriter Josh Yohe put the odds at 2/1 Crosby would return for this game.

So if Crosby is out (which he is, coach Dan Bylsma announced as much on Thursday) the question everybody moves onto next is when? Well, a quick glance of the schedule shows a home game on Nov. 15 against the Avalanche. After that the Penguins don't play at home again until the week of the Thanksgiving when they have a three-game homestand.

Judging by the way Bylsma is still not putting a timetable on Crosby's return and insists it's up until the doctors clear him, my guess is that the Tuesday game is a no-go, too. My best bet would be the three-game homestand starting on Nov. 21 with the Islanders. But with Crosby being essentially day to day after this long struggle with post-concussions symptoms, it will be a guessing game every day.

Meanwhile, I hope this doesn't deter fans from tuning into the game anyway. This will be one of the best matchups of the weekend as the top teams in each conference face off. And for those media members still around for the game, there's always James Neal vs. Dallas.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 8, 2011 7:50 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 8:29 pm
 

Mark Letestu traded to Columbus

By: Adam Gretz

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced on Tuesday evening that they have traded center Mark Letestu to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick. Given that Letestu is a center, and the Penguins made two other roster transactions on Tuesday by sending forwards Dustin Jeffrey and Steve MacIntyre to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on conditioning assignments, it's only sure to increase the speculation and discussion as to whether or not captain Sidney Crosby is getting closer to making his season debut, even if the two events aren't related.

In 11 games this season Letestu has yet to score a goal and has recorded just one assist as his production has dropped significantly from a strong 2010-11 season that saw him score 14 goals and record 13 assists in 64 games. It was a strong rookie season that saw him play a strong all-around game and excel in the faceoff circle, finishing 16th in the NHL by winning over 55 percent of his draws.

The 26-year-old was signed by the Penguins as an undrafted free agent back in March, 2007. He's currently in the first year of a two-year contract that pays him an average annual salary of $625,000.

Based on how much they've struggled in the early part of the season, currently owning the worst record in the NHL, it was only a matter of time until the Blue Jackets did something in an effort to reverse their fortune, but the addition of Letestu, another center, is an interesting addition given that it's probably one of the deepest positions on the roster.

General manager Scott Howson told Blue Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline, via Twitter, "We like the player. It does not fill an immediate need, but you can never have too many centers. We think he's a top-9 talent."

Letestu's ability to win faceoffs, however, should be a welcome addition for a team that's currently 17th in the NHL when it comes to success in the circle.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 8, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 6:22 pm
 

OHL player suspended 20 games for head shot

By: Adam Gretz

Tom Kuhnhackl is a prospect in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization and currently plays for the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League. During a game over the weekend against the Kitchener Rangers, he leveled Carolina Hurricanes prospect Ryan Murphy behind the net with a hit that gained quite a bit of attention for its violence.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Kuhnhackl has been suspended for 20 games by the league.

This is the play that earned him the banishment:



Just about everything Kuhnhackl could have done wrong here, he did. He appeared to leave his feet prior to the hit and delievered an elbow to the head. It's not all that different from a hit delivered by Steve Downie on Dean McAmmond during a preseason game a few years ago that also resulted in a 20-game banishment.

Kuhnhackl was the Penguins' fourth-round draft pick last season and recorded 68 points in 63 games with the Windsor Spitfires during the 2010-11 season. After opening this season with Windsor, he was traded to Niagara. Hockey's Future currently has him listed as the No. 4 prospect in the Penguins farm system.

Murphy was selected by the Hurricanes in the first round of the 2011 draft, 12th overall, following a season that saw him score 26 goals and record 53 assists.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 7, 2011 6:35 pm
Edited on: November 7, 2011 7:52 pm
 

Kings' Moreau fined for hit, sounds off on system

By Brian Stubits

Los Angeles Kings forward Ethan Moreau was called for boarding over the weekend when he hit Chris Kunitz of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Unlike a lot of the boarding calls we've seen this season, it didn't result in a suspension for Moreau, but he was still fined. The NHL hit him with a $2,500 penalty, the largest a player can receive under the current CBA.

The hit happened about midway through the first period of the Penguins' 3-2 shootout victory in Los Angeles. Here is the play.

Clearly boarding, but it doesn't seem like a particularly vicious hit. Couple that with the fact that Moreau really doesn't have a history to speak of and you see why there is no suspension forthcoming.

Moreau will take the penalty in stride, but he first wanted to share his feelings on the matter. And share he did. Here is what he told Rich Hammond of LAKingsInsider.com.

"I've noticed a big difference in the last couple years, especially with D-men going back to get pucks," Moreau said Monday. "I think they just show their back to you now, and they're off the hook. It would be better if they just squared up to the hit, took the hit and moved on. I don't think protecting yourself by putting yourself in a vulnerable position is the way to play. I can't imagine. I would never do that, but it seems like it's almost something that's acceptable now.

"There has to be some repercussion, there has to be some penalty, either for embellishing on a questionable hit or not protecting yourself. What happened with me, it looks bad, I admit it. It looks like it is a penalty, but players definitely embellish it."

Moreau didn't call out Kunitz personally, but Moreau clearly didn't think his punishment fit the crime.

"I definitely hit him from behind, but it wasn't excessive," Moreau said. "I was just trying to finish my hit and it happened so fast. He's looking for the puck and I'm just trying to knock him off the puck. He's a strong guy. It didn't seem like he braced (for the hit). He went down pretty easy. He was out for that shift.

"So I understand their philosophy, and what they're trying to crack down on, but it's difficult. It's a really difficult read. My job is to play physical, and if you pass up every questionable position on the ice, you're not going to be very physical."

Moreau certainly is not the first player to share these feelings. He grows an increasingly louder chorus of critics on players intentionally trying to draw these penalties. This will remain an issue as long as the boarding penalties are under such a microscope.

And while Moreau does not call out Kunitz, it sure seems that's where this rant was born, out of the frustration from this particular play. It should be noted that for a very similar play, Kunitz's teammate Kris Letang was actually suspended earlier this season for being the deliverer, not the recipient of such a hit. Letang, however, had a background that wasn't pristine like Moreau's.

I still can't quite comprehend how players can view an extra couple of minutes of power play time in a regular-season game can be worth rising serious injury by putting their self in harm's way. Now the falling down a little easier part that Moreau brings up, that's understandable. We all know that diving, while not as prevalent as it is in soccer, is present in our beloved sport of hockey.

Personally, I'm wondering what happened to just a regular old boarding call? It hardly seems to exist anymore. This one seems rather mundane, certainly no worse than this play from Marco Sturm of the Panthers on Jordan Leopold of the Sabres, a play that resulted in no supplementary discipline from the NHL.

So I pose two questions to you: First, did the punishment fit the crime in this case? Second, does the NHL have a chronic problem here or is this just frustration from the offending players?

More NHL Discipline News Here

Video: The Score

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com